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Alberta / Eastern BC, crowds in March?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I'm planning a 9-day ski trip (one week, two weekends) this March, flying in and out of Calgary and skiing 2-3 days each at Lake Louise/Sunshine, Kicking Horse, and Revelstoke. A few questions for locals and other knowledgable folk: 


- Which week in March would be best in terms of likely snow quality and (especially) crowds? It looks like BC and Alberta both have school vacations in March; not sure if this is something to factor in.

- Given that I'll be skiing on both weekdays weekends and have some flexibility on the order, any thoughts on which of these mountains (relative to the others) are less crowded on weekends, and which should be visited on weekdays only? 

- From what I can gather these are the best mountains within driving distance of Calgary for steep terrain and a shot at fresh snow, but are there any other mountains I should consider?

post #2 of 5

-Both the Calgary and Edmonton School boards have their vacations in the last week of March, with the Calgary Board of Education, they are also off a few days before - so March 22 through to the end of March will be busier than usual. That's also usually the time that all the hills have day lessons/camps for students, so it will be a little bit busier. 


-As far as skiing and crowds goes, when you are in Banff, I would suggest doing Lake Louise on the weekdays, and Sunshine Village on the weekends to make it simpler for crowd management. Because Louise has the centralized gondola on the front side, it can get busy there on the weekends. Sunshine is much more spread out and you have access to many lifts once you reach the lodge - so the crowds thin out very very quickly. I don't think I have ever, and I mean ever waited for more than 10 minutes for a lift at Sunshine. Of course, at the end of the day, I would also say - go where the conditions are best :) If you post closer to your departure date, I'm sure a number of us on this site will have updated conditions reports/thoughts on where to ski when.


- As for Kicking Horse, the biggest determinant of a crowd is a powder day. If there is one, there will be a line for the gondola in the morning. After that first morning rush though, you will probably be fine. Depending on which part of the mountain you ski, you will usually have to make a run all the way to the very bottom - so you might be relying on the gondola a fair bit. You can ski either weekends or weekdays at KH, crowds will probably be smaller than Louise, but again, weekdays are best. 


-As far as mountains go, people usually do one of two 'routes' coming into Calgary: you could either go west, and hit up LL, SSV, KH and Revy; or you could go south and hit up Castle and Fernie. Also two great mountains. People often choose where to go based on whether they have a car or not (easier to do Banff area without a car, and to rely on shuttles), or if they wait last minute and decide on conditions. March could be epic at Fernie, or it could be a rainy mess. I love Fernie - I think it's an incredible mountain - the open bowl skiing, the trees, the terrain are just awesome. But really, either going west, or going south - both will be great. If you let us know what level skier you are/what your terrain preferences are, I'm sure we could give you a few suggestions with regards to mountains.


- As a last note about crowds - Alberta/Interior BC is a bit of a different ball game from other places. I'm not sure where you are coming from, but the idea of crowds is very relative. I get annoyed when I can't ski directly onto the lift. It's a crowded day if I see more than 3 or 4 people on the run that I'm doing...as long as you are not on the greens, this part of the world often seems very 'uncrowded' for most visitors. I've skied holiday weekends in the Banff area when I've never had to wait for a lift. That being said, if you get to the resort early, get a good parking spot, you're golden. Most people love arriving (for whatever reason) between 10 and 11. I like to arrive early, get a ton of skiing in before 11, eat lunch quickly, ski with the hills to myself between 11.30 and 2, and then have a short warm up break before shutting the place down at 4 (most people are gone by 2.30).

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply! 


I'm an advanced, aggressive skier -- former racer, but now gravitate toward steeps over groomers or bumps. I don't mind hiking or traversing to find fresh tracks. I do some sidecountry at my home mountains (Squaw, Kirkwood) but mostly stick in-bounds when visiting unfamiliar mountains. This year, outside my home mountains I'm planning long weekends at Red/Whitewater, Whistler/Blackcomb, and Alta/Snowbird.


I skied Revelstoke once, a couple years after it opened, and loved the North Bowl and how empty the resort was generally (although from the recent thread here it appears that Revy is no longer undiscovered...). Haven't skied the Alberta mountains or other Eastern BC hills, and am excited to explore them!

post #4 of 5
Originally Posted by dcs24 View Post

 - From what I can gather these are the best mountains within driving distance of Calgary for steep terrain and a shot at fresh snow, but are there any other mountains I should consider?


Fernie and Castle. They don't link up with the Banff resorts really well, but both are worth a look. Castle has very long, consistently steep fall line runs. It doesn't have a lot of "extreme" terrain, but there isn't much for easy terrain other. It is super fun. Low crowds, especially on the weekdays. Not much in the way of grooming, snow making or trail markings. Backcountry-lite. 


Fernie is sort of famous already. 


3.5 hours from Fernie to Kicking Horse if you want to loop that way. 

post #5 of 5

Kicking Horse gondola gets busy around 9:30AM and stays busy until 11:30. The rest of the day is usually okay. There is a lot of good inbounds hiking at Kicking Horse. T1 ridge is about 15minutes up. 25 minutes for T2. Hike while the gondy lines are long.


The lift line is the only place you will see crowds at Kicking Horse. The rest of the mountain feels empty. Very limited uphill capacity.


Sunshine's lift system works really well, but sections can be busy. Goat's Eye is in the shade in the morning, but usually pretty empty. Even on holliday weekends.


Lake Louise will have big lines at the base if you arrive after 9:30. Get there early and avoid the base until your last run. The best terrain is off the backside of the summit platter and paradise chair. Lap these, and you will stay away from the crowds and have a better time. 

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